With a huge budget (by Korean standards - not American), The Host is an impressive sci-fi film about a monster that is created when an American scientist forces his direct report to dump an enormous amount of formaldehyde into the Han River rather dispose of it in the proper way. Like the original Godzilla, there is some strong social commentary going on about the United States that is not explicitly anti-American, but certainly critical of certain things- the least of which is that the formaldehyde scenario was inspired by real events.

The star of the film is the monster itself that, despite the limitations of the budget, is really not that bad. And you have to hand it to the filmmakers who chose to go for broke and show the monster, from the start, in full view, in broad daylight and for extended amounts of time. Initially, this doesn't work as it looks kind of goofy, but after a while, you get used to it and no longer think about the effects. It simply becomes "the monster". I don't know if that was the intent of the filmmakers, but it worked.

Despite the monster being the star and focal point of the film, the story actually revolves around a family of misfits whose youngest member is snatched up by the monster. Assuming she is dead, they later receive a cell phone call from her where she is pleading for them to come save her from the sewer the monster has stashed her in. The members of the family seem plucked straight out of a South Korean version of The Royal Tennebaums, each member a little quirkier than the next. The dynamic between the characters is well done and at times, touching, at others very funny.

It would be unfair to judge the movie against the hype that surrounded it. The DVD box has glowing quotes from the NY Times, People Magazine and other mainstream periodicals, though I suspect there is some sort of patronization going on there. "Astounding...for a lower budget South Korean film" for example. Judged by straight forward monster movie standards, The Host is very good, entertaining and well executed. It's not the greatest monster movie ever, but it's a winner.

Dont't forget to also check out: Host [WS]